On Wednesday night I attended the AGM of the Career Development Group. They had invited Linda Constable to speak about the Living Library concept.
For those of you who have not yet heard about this concept, the idea of a living library is to borrow a person rather than a book! This idea may seem a bit bizarre at first but, as Linda spoke about the concept, it seemed to make a lot of sense.
One of the fundamental purposes of borrowing a book, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is to learn more about a topic, or immerse yourself in another world. One huge drawback of a book is that it is not interactive. You cannot ask questions as you read through it. By loaning a person, the individual gets an opportunity speak to someone that they may not usually get an opportunity to speak to, and ask any burning questions as they go.
Linda mentioned a few volunteers who had shared their story as a “book” in a living library. There was a female priest, a Polish immigrant, a Muslim woman and a black policeman, amongst others. One interesting outcome from this is that the borrowers' personal stereotypes or prejudices may be challenged. By getting an opportunity to discover more about a person you might never otherwise get to interact with on a deeper level, we can discover that while we may have differences, we probably also have more in common than we think.
The talk ended with Linda separating the group into “books” and borrowers! My colleague Cameron and I drew the short straw and were persuaded to be books. The books were asked to discuss their career history, and come up with a title for our book based on this. This seemed a bit outside the comfort zone, as we are used to asking others about their career history – not the other way around! Unfortunately recruitment did not appear to be a popular book. We were the last to be chosen! If we were in a library we would have been terribly dusty from lack of borrowing, and eventually weeded out of stock! We were however eventually chosen, and the task was surprising enjoyable!
After the talk I was really excited about the concept, and I am going to aim to visit a library holding a living library event. More information about living libraries can be found at www.living-library.org.